Forsyte sat in the driver’s seat of Hughes’ limousine gazing out at the rain-soaked streets of Rooks Port. He leaned back and listened to the rhythmic ping-ping of raindrops as they fell against the roof of the car, watched the water roll down the windshield like tears. He smiled.

Nearly an hour ago Hughes had ordered him to return to the manor with the limo. But Forsyte, whose name wasn’t really Alex Duffey, had prior orders that countermanded those issued by Hughes. So he’d waited until the limo had traveled three blocks and then he had made his move.

“Pull over, please,” Forsyte said. “I think I’m going to be ill.”

Forsyte had feigned sickliness for the past two years just for this moment. Troy, Hughes’ personal driver for the past five years, didn’t even hesitate. He directed the limousine to the curb and brought it to a stop. Huddled over, one arm across his stomach, Forsyte struggled with the door.

“I’ll get the door for you,” Troy said as he opened his own door and climbed from the driver’s seat.

Forsyte watched as Troy moved around the car. Then, the door opened and Forsyte stumbled out. Troy caught him under one arm and steadied him. Surreptitiously, Forsyte glanced around to be certain no one was out; the streets were deserted. He quickly took hold of Troy’s arm and pulled him roughly forward. Taken by surprise, Troy staggered, completely thrown off balance. Then Forsyte twisted Troy’s arm and spun him against the limo, the sudden impact forcing the air from his lungs. As Troy struggled to catch his breath, Forsyte pinned his arm behind him and slapped a cuff around his wrist. Then, in an instant, he had the other arm and cuffed that wrist as well.

Troy was still gasping for air as Forsyte yanked the chain between the cuffs with one hand and pulled backwards. His other hand firmly on the back of Troy’s head, Forsyte forced him over at the waist. Then, with a quick shove, sent him sprawling, face-first, into the passenger area of the limo. Forsyte climbed in behind him and pulled the door shut.

“Don’t worry. I’m not here for you,” Forsyte told Troy as he helped him to sit upright. “I just need a bit of information.”

Troy pulled away and moved across the seat to prop against the other door. He was still too disoriented to do any more than that. But, just in case Forsyte was reading the situation wrong, he drew a .45 from under his jacket, slid the safety off as he held it up for Troy’s benefit, then laid it across his lap. Troy’s eyes went wide; his body tensed as he pushed himself back harder against the door.

“What’s with the—“ 

“A precaution,” Forsyte cut in. “I just need you to answer one question for me.”

Troy relaxed a little, but his eyes remained fixed on the .45. “What do you want to know?”

“The truth,” Forsyte said, and then lashed out with a quick punch to Troy’s temple. Troy collapsed, unconscious.

Forsyte slid the gun back into its holster under his jacket. He reached over and pulled Troy down onto his back and then, leaning over Troy’s body, he placed his hands on either side of Troy’s head. He closed his eyes and concentrated.

Telepathy was sometimes a side effect of a cognitive ability, but in Forsyte’s case it was a very minor side effect; one that he’d kept hidden from his employer. With some effort and mental strain, his mind’s eye gazed into the dulled thoughts of the chauffeur. And there, in the psychic maelstrom of Troy’s mind, he found the information he needed: the location of the rendezvous point.

Forsyte released his hold on Troy’s head and moved to the other end of the seat. He dragged a sleeve across his wet brow, wiping the beads of sweat away. Then he pulled a cell phone from a pocket and dialed a number from memory. The line rang once, clicked, went silent for one brief second, and then beeped.

Quickly, but succinctly, he spoke into the phone. “Agent Bryce. Field designation: Forsyte. Operation Nineteen-A slash Zero Seven. Converge at Erin and Adams. ETA: forty minutes.”

He ended the call and slid the phone back into a pocket. Then, after attending to a few other small details, Forsyte had driven the limo to the rendezvous point where Hughes would be expecting Troy to be waiting.

Now he sat quietly in the limo and thought, finally. For the past two years he’d pretended to be someone he wasn’t; little more than a glorified bloodhound on Hughes’ payroll. As an undercover operative for HAVEN – the Homeland Agency for Vigilance and Engagement – Forsyte had infiltrated Hughes’ network, all in hopes of securing a book that was rumored to be a powerful artifact. And now it seemed that he was only minutes away from completing his assignment.

A knock against the tinted driver’s window brought Forsyte out of his reverie. He glanced over at the digital clock set in the dash of the limousine. Prompt, as always, he thought. Exactly thirty minutes ago Hughes’ concise message had come over the commlink.

Another knock, this one more urgent.

Forsyte checked to be certain of the contents of his jacket pocket, then took a deep breath to strengthen his resolve.

“Well, I suppose it’s time to formally tender my resignation,” he mumbled as he pulled gloves onto his hands. He flipped up the hood of his jacket, opened the door and stepped out to face Hughes.

The second in my series of author introductions from the Freaks and Weeping Children Anthology Kickstarter.

Steve Weddle

What was the first work you sold? How did it happen?

I came to this life through literary magazines, where “selling” a story meant getting two copies of the magazine in your mailbox. I’ve had works in anthologies and received checks here and there since those earlier days, of course. The key to selling a work, it seems to me, is to write the best work you can first and then find the right market for it. That’s not what you asked, but there you go. The earliest thing I got paid money for writing was a college physics paper on black body radiation and how that led to a greater understanding of what we now call quantum physics. The guy paid me $100 and a fifth of vodka, which was kinda cool. Anyway, find your market. That’s key.

What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?

Working with the accountants to find tax shelters for all the money you make writing fiction.

Tell us about your favorite book.

I don’t know that I have a favorite book. It’s kinda like trying to pick your favorite child or your favorite cheese, isn’t it? I think Ben Whitmer’s Satan is Real is one of the most surprising books I’ve read in the past few years. The book is nearly an autobiography of musician Charlie Louvin, but Whitmer has really sculpted something special with this one, something that seems more true than standard non-fiction. Also, Chris Holm’sCOLLECTOR series is magnificent, a run of stories that gets labeled “urban fantasy” for some reason.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

I pull from all over the place, honestly. I was just reading about some pre-Civil War politics this morning and followed that up with a revisit to my Fisher King folder. No one author has been a Great Influencer on me, though I’ve certainly stolen much from Ann Beattie, Steven Brust, and Raymond Carver and others.

Any ideas for your Freaks and Weeping Children story? If so, can you give us a blurb?

Yes. I’ve been working on pieces in the same rural setting as my book, Country Hardball, looking at the time around 1933. Should be fun.

Beyond those five things, where can people find you on the internet?

Website: Steveweddle.com

Twitter: @steveweddle

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/3983306.Steve_Weddle

Thin clouds moved across the full moon, dimming the scattered light that found its way down between the densely packed buildings to the streets below. Deepening shadows crowded the edges of the narrow roadway. Silence hung heavy over this part of the city; no clamorous car horns, no people milling to and fro in the darkness. The only sound was the quiet tread of tires as the limousine made its way through the back streets of Rooks Port.

Thomas Hughes regarded the young man sitting at his side. Alex Duffey, or Forsyte, as he preferred to be called, wasn’t particularly impressive. He was short and slender, seemingly frail in his gray suit. His face was gaunt and unnaturally pale, and his eyes vague.

“You’re sure this is it?” Hughes asked.

Forsyte leaned against the tinted glass and gazed out into the night. Hughes watched as he raised his face to the sky and closed his eyes. Both sat silently until, finally, Forsyte opened his eyes.

“Just a little further,” he said, and then turned away from the window to look down at his feet.

Forsyte had come to Hughes two years ago looking for a job. He was a Metanorm, a child of the flux, born with abilities beyond those of a normal man. Forsyte’s particular gift was some sort of psychic cognition; a knack for just knowing things. Hughes had hired him on the spot, and then proceeded to take advantage of his special ability to seek the whereabouts of Hughes’ own personal “Holy Grail”, The Codex Penumbrae; a book rumored to contain the ancient arts of the shadows. Of course there had been false leads and erroneous information, but those had merely served as a process of elimination.

And tonight? Hughes wondered, as he turned to stare out the window.

The limousine had passed through University Square and now moved carefully down a litter-strewn alley somewhere in the vicinity of Winston Street.

“How much further?” Hughes asked his driver.

“We’re here,” came the reply. “The Aulberge Hotel.” Read the rest of this entry »

For those of you not following along with the Freaks and Weeping Children Kickstarter campaign I’d like to introduce one of the contributing authors appearing in the anthology.

Jamie Wyman

What was the first work you sold? How did it happen?

First work I sold was a short story for the anthology When the Hero Comes 2. I’d submitted my debut novel to Gabrielle Harbowy at Dragon Moon Press. Even though we ultimately didn’t publish that together, she contacted me a few months later with an invitation to be part of the anthology. I wrote “The Clever One” and sent it off. A month later, I had an acceptance in my inbox. (Consequently, I think I signed that contract the same week I signed the contract with Entangled Publishing for my debut novel Wild Card.)

What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?

It changes from day to day. Some days it’s staying focused. Other days it’s getting past the cycle of “this sucks! No, it’s the best thing in the world!” Most often, though, I think the hardest part is remembering that nothing happens overnight. I’m an impatient Aries and I may not always know what I want, but I know I want it *now*! Patience is not my virtue, but being a writer requires a zen-like calm sometimes. That’s hard for me.

Tell us about your favorite book.

Oh geeze…

Honestly, it’s a toss-up between two:

Fool by Christopher Moore and Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley.

Fool is a re-telling of Shakespeare’s King Lear as told from the jester’s point of view. It’s not a departure from Moore’s other works, but rather seeing his trademark wit and color in Elizabethan garb. The characters are alive and the laughs don’t stop. It highlights Moore’s gift for using humor to tell a very deep, emotional story. One of his best.

Mists of Avalon is the Arthurian legend retold to focus on the women rather than the King and his Companions. I read this book every year and every time I come away with a new appreciation for something I hadn’t noticed on an earlier read. It’s timeless. It’s heartbreaking. It’s beautifully told.

Who has been the biggest influence on your writing?

Wow, again with trying to pick just one…Probably Christopher Moore, honestly. Again, I absolutely love the way he can write dick jokes and have you wetting yourself with laughter all while telling the story of the Crucifixion (Lamb). His use of humor, vulgarity and satire are masterful. Also, having met him, I have to say he’s just an awesome guy.

Any ideas for your Freaks and Weeping Children story? If so, can you give us a blurb?

So far, the piece is still hot, molten idea-slag waiting to coalesce into story.

Beyond those five things, where can people find you on the internet?

Website & Blog: www.jamiewyman.com

Twitter: @BeegirlBlue

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jamie-Wyman/245049885569291

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7234286.Jamie_Wyman

Freaks and Weeping Children is live on Kickstarter. Roughly nine hours in and it stands at 6% funded. If it can maintain that dollar amount throughout the life of the Kickstarter it will reach the goal of $10k. I’m realistic; I know Kickstarters generally ebb and flow but a guy can hope. Can’t he?

Surf on over and take a look.

Image

The Countdown Begins. . .

This week the Kickstarter page for my anthology, Freaks and Weeping Children, goes live. I’m currently being consumed by lots of nervous energy. But, with everyone’s help, I’m sure it will be a success. You see, I haven’t been alone on this project. Throughout nearly every step I’ve had someone whispering in my ear; friends on Twitter offered me words of encouragement whenever I began to doubt this project and, to be honest, myself. So, I’d like to say ‘Thank you’ to those that stood by me during this, the grandest thing I’ve ever attempted. It may not look like much to some but believe me, it means a lot.

Now, on to more important things. . . the talent. What follows is the line-up of Freaks and Weeping Children‘s Contributing Writers.

Karina Cooper

After writing happily ever afters for all of her friends in school, Karina Cooper eventually grew up (sort of), went to work in the real world (kind of), where she decided that making stuff up was way more fun (true!). She is the author of dark and sexy paranormal romances, steampunk adventures, crossover urban fantasy, and continues to write across multiple genres with mad glee. Her award winning steampunk series, The St. Croix Chronicles, has been nominated for multiple RT Reviewers’ Choice Awards.

One part glamour, one part dork and all imagination, Karina is also a gamer, an avid reader, a borderline hermit and an activist. She co-exists with a husband, a menagerie and a severe coffee habit. Visit her at www.karinacooper.com, because she says so.

Read the rest of this entry »

Image

Cemetery Dance

Posted: January 27, 2014 in Fiction, Writing

I arrive late to my own funeral. The eulogy is well under way, making it easier to slink along the edges of the cemetery. I step into the shade of a nearby mausoleum and watch the small crowd gathered around my grave with mixed feelings. On the one hand I feel shame for leaving some of my closest friends to mourn my loss. On the other, disappointment because there had been a bigger turn-out the first time I had died. Of course the ex-wife didn’t bother showing up for either.

I don’t really have much of a plan. Just showed up to keep an eye on the funeral in hopes of spotting my killer. The weather refuses to cooperate. It should be overcast and soggy like funerals in the movies. You know, a steady downpour of rain, tears, and dark grief. But this isn’t the movies. This is real life, and real life enjoys its little ironies. My funeral is sunny, with a slight breeze cutting through the headstones. Here in the gray shadows of the mausoleum I can feel none of the heat, only the chill of the wind.

Leaning against the cool stone I watch as the service comes to a close. The preacher finishes the prayer, closes his bible, and then moves away from the head of the grave. The casket, my casket, sinks slowly into the dark earth and the mourners begin their march toward waiting cars.

As the crowd moves away I have a better view of the cemetery grounds. And there he is, Detective Pederson, standing in the shade of a nearby birch tree. A cigarette hangs from his lip, the smoke curling around his cap before being whisked away on the breeze. The tail of his coat flaps in the wind like the cape of some cartoon superhero. But this man is no hero, just another cop on the take come to make sure the job was done. I’m certain of it. The two of us had history back in my days on the force. When IA began investigating me, Pederson had been right there at my throat as well. His constant moaning had been the straw broke the board’s back. I was off the force before IA even wrapped up the investigation.

I stand a little straighter, my fists clench, and my jaw set so tight my eyes hurt. My gut’s screaming at me to stomp over and push Pederson’s teeth down his throat, but a good cop—even an ex-cop like me—knows when to ignore his instincts and let his brain work it out. If I want to catch the trigger-man I have to do the smart thing. Tailing Pederson will lead me to the guy that fired the shots. Then I could let my gut have its way.

Pederson stiffens and looks my way. His eyes squint as he struggles to penetrate the shadows. I stare right back. Let him see his shooter had fouled the job. Then he flicks the cigarette away and smiles that crooked smile of his. With a shake of his head and a tip of his cap, he turns and walks away. My mind wonders at that but my gut gets it, and this time I have to go with it.

“He didn’t do it.”

Martin, behind me. We had been partners for years before I was kicked off the force. He is my closest friend and, for a while, had been my brother-in-law. If Martin knows I’m not dead then so does Lauren.

“If you’re here then who’s in the box?” he asks.

I shrug, head for my car. I have no idea who is buried in my place. I hadn’t thought to ask. Porkpie had listened to my situation and what was needed, then handled the details himself. As long as we’ve worked together he has always come through for me. As a fixer he’s one of the best. The fact he’s mute adds to his charm.

Meanwhile, with Pederson off the list, I was back at square one. I wasn’t sure what my next move should be. There are contacts I can tap but with only vague hunches I really didn’t know the questions to ask. Snitches rarely spell it out; you got to work them, lead them where they want to be. If you don’t have the Once upon a time you’ll play hell finding the Happily ever after.

“If Pederson didn’t put the hit out, then who?” I ask aloud, mostly for my own benefit. If Martin decides to roll with it, well, so much the better.

“Have you talked to Lauren lately?”

Lauren? “No. I assume she’s okay. She hasn’t called to bust me about alimony.” I slow, letting Martin move up alongside me. “Since you’re here, you got any leads on who tried to kill me? Who’s handling the case?”

“Nobody’s handling it. It’s a cold case. You were mugged and there’s no leads,” he says. “You should’ve checked on Lauren. She’s–”

I stop, grab Martin’s arm and swing him round to face me. “Forget about Lauren! What do you mean there’s no leads?”

He snatches his arm from my grip and shoves me back. I stumble, nearly fall, but catch my balance at the last second. Martin moves in, his arms held outward, his body bowed forward. When did he draw the gun?

“Yeah, I called it in,” Martin says. “I found you dead in an alley. Two bullets in your back and your wallet gone. You don’t remember?”

“You–“

And it hits me like a punch in the chops. I grab my head, double over, as images slam through my brain; rapid-fire like a bad movie.

Drinking. Martin. The clock strikes two and we’re on the street. BAM! BAM! Two shots and I’m falling forward, to my knees, into darkness. No, not darkness; nothingness. Sights, sounds, sensations, all gone. My body lies cold on the morgue slab. Then, an eye-watering glare of light and I’m sitting up, cold and naked. Alive again.

I’m not really alive, but I’m not dead either. Let’s just say I’m hard to kill and leave it at that. But, as before, there’s always that gap of time my brain refuses to acknowledge.

The pain eases, recedes to nothing. I look down at my hands, touch my face. No feeling. No heat, no breeze, nothing but the cold. And now I know.

“You son of a bitch. You killed me.”

I lunge forward. Martin expects it and steps back enough to throw me off balance. The weight of the gun comes down against the side of my head. There’s little pain but it’s enough to send me sprawling to the grass. I look up to find Martin standing over me, his gun aiming at my head. The gun doesn’t concern me. Martin’s motive, on the other hand.

“Why, Martin?”

“Because of my sister. Lauren was crushed the first time you died. But you came back and things got better. Then, it became clear you weren’t you. Internal Affairs brought you up on charges. But Lauren pushed through it. Day by day she made it. And when, finally, you were cleared, she smiled. That smile lit up her whole face. She had made it out the other side of her grief.

“But you got canned and skipped out. Why? What gives you the right to throw all that hurt back in her face? You walked away clean, left the rest of us stained.”

“I’m sorry, Martin. Staying with Lauren after I returned had been a mistake. I wasn’t the same person,” I say. “I still don’t understand what I am. Now put the gun away. We both know it won’t do any real good.”

 “Yes, it will,” Martin says. “This time I’ve done my research. But don’t worry, it won’t hurt. You’re already dead, remember? I’m just here to finish the job.”

Martin smiles, snakes his finger through the guard, and pulls the trigger.

The iron bullet crashes into my brain. He’s wrong. It does hurt, like hellfire searing the bone beneath my flesh. But only for a second and then the sudden light returns and I’m floating free, looking down at my dead body.

Two months ago I posted submission guidelines for Freaks & Weeping Children, an anthology of dark fiction edited and self-published by me. This project is near to my heart and I’ve been lucky enough to have many talented authors working on dark tales for little more than a contributor’s copy of the finished book. More on that in a bit.

Image

Beyond the writing, I hired Matt Davis to design the cover. He did a wonderful job taking my Photoshopped rough and developing a striking piece of art that I’m happy displaying on the front of my anthology. Kudos to him. You should definitely pop over to Matt’s deviantART Gallery and take a look at more of his work.

Meanwhile, I’m busy on the layout of the interior pages. InDesign is a great help in this process but for someone who rarely uses the software it means refreshing myself on a number of skills. I’ve been reminding myself how to manage gutters and kerning and lets not forget fonts, type size, line spacing, headers, footers. . . Oh, my.

Now, remember a few paragraphs when I mentioned contributor copies? Yes, that just doesn’t sit well with me. I would love to pay the authors for their work. I believe SFWA says .06/word is the standard fair rate. If I can’t manage that I would at least like to offer an honorarium, a flat cash rate.

And then there’s my wishlist of published authors; authors I would love to invite to the anthology. I’m not sure how many would actually be interested or have the time but if the funds were available I could put the offer out there. My wishlist? Well, that’s easy: Robert J. Bennett, Karina Cooper, Delilah S. Dawson, John Hornor Jacobs, Kat Richardson, Steve Weddle, and Jaye Wells. Every one of these authors writes the kind of tales that fit right in with Freaks & Weeping Children. If you haven’t heard of any one of these writers you would do well to Google and read.

The question now seems to be, “should I crowdfund?” The obvious answer is, “Well, yeah. No shit!” So, I’m going to make an attempt. If I only receive enough to pay my contributors then I’ll be satisfied. All funds above and beyond the goal will go toward inviting other writers to the anthology.

Stay tuned. I’ll post the Pubslush link soon. This will be my first foray into crowdfunding so if anyone has tips to share I promise to listen.

About six weeks ago I posted the opening 200 words for a flash fiction challenge prompted by Chuck Wendig over on his blog, Terribleminds. The three weeks following my post other writers contributed to my initial start. I’ve finally gotten around to completing the tale. I’ve notated each contribution with the author’s name and a link to his or her site.

 Jersey City Dead

 “Casey’s Jersey City crew got careless,” Says Bossman. “Zombies flooded three sites. Two held them back but we blew the third. Horde made it up four flights and we couldn’t risk it. All told, probably lost fifty people.”

Bossman looks at me, gin blossoms reddening. The skin around his eyes draws tight, his hands, resting on the desk between us, clench, unclench. “Go find Casey. You ask him how he nearly lost three buildings. Then, once he answers, you make certain it doesn’t happen again.”

“Yes, sir,” I say.

Boss nods, quick, but the tears never leave his eyes. I turn and make for the stairs. How do I make fifty deaths count for something? These weren’t soldiers or made-men. These were men, women, and children, each under the protection of the Poverelli family. Fifty dead. And I gotta go make it fifty-one.

Name’s Blaylock, but everybody calls me Block. The name suits me. I’m muscle for the Family. It’s my job to make sure none of these mooks foul up and let the dead run riot over our rooftop paradise.

Here, it ain’t the zombies on the streets you gotta worry about. It’s the guy beside ya still breathing.1

I only knock once ’cause I’m a little pissed. I’m standing just outside the door to Casey’s office, gun in hand. Behind me there’s a little crowd of civilians gathering. They’re all lookin’ mean at me—probably because they’re a little fed up with the administration at this point. They’re all quiet-like though, ’cause I was sent by Bossman himself and they knew it.

It took a while to get to Casey’s place, what with the big, still-smoking ruins of the building he lost in the way. Before the screw-up I coulda walked straight over. The buildings had been like a row of teeth, albeit crooked and rotting. But, one of ‘em had got knocked out, so I had to schlep it ‘cross the gap on the ground, which was dangerous.

That was a stressful trip. I am stressed.

So, I only knock once. Then I open the door, see Casey still getting’ out of his chair, and say to him, “Casey.”

“I… I can explain,” he says, but his face says he can’t, so I shoot him before he can bullshit me. His head pops like a soda can that somebody shook up and dropped.

I turn around and hear one of the civvies, actually a soldier I guess, since he’s pointing a gun at me, say, “We’re sick of the Family’s shit.”

I see that they’re all pointing guns at me and frown. I musta underestimated how angry they were.2 

Here’s the thing about Jersey City that some folks forget.

Jersey City folks, they’re used to some gunfire ruining a nice, quiet evening.

Jersey City zombies, well, they ain’t so kind.

There’s a reason my gun’s got a silencer. It’s not that whisper-quiet pchew, pchew bullshit you’d get in the movies, but it’s a damn sight more quiet than, say, a bunch of pissed-off civvies with poorly-maintained firearms.

I duck ’round the corner into Casey’s place when they start unloading. I ain’t gonna lie, being outgunned by just about anybody is pretty scary, and I’m a little scared as I hunker down behind Casey’s davenport. But I got two things going for me.

One, the mob’s more scared than I am, so they hesitate rather than rushing me.

Two, guns without silencers are loud as balls.

“Why don’t you come on out, Block?” It’s the soldier again. Gotta be the leader. “Stop hiding and face death like a man.”

I spot the fire escape outside of the bedroom window, a room and a half away. I’ll never make it with them watching.

Then the zombies start breaking down the door downstairs.

The civvies panic. I make a break for it.3

I throw a glance into the hall as I duck across the doorway and head for Casey’s bedroom. Most of the civvies are headed up the stairs to the roof. Idiots. A few are heading down to try and stem the tide. Yeah, like that’s gonna happen. This place is lost now. The soldier was staring down the staircase, trying to decide his best course of action, but he must have heard me scuttle behind him, cause I caught a last glimpse of him whirling around.

I’m through the door and I slam it closed. I leap the bed and carefully stick an eye over the window sill. Zombies ain’t too graceful in any case, and no way they’d be able to pull down the bottom section.

I’m half way over the sill, staying low, when the bedroom door slams against the wall and a shot breaks the glass over my head. It’s the soldier, of course.

“Put that thing away,” I hiss at him, “and we might get out of this alive.”

The hate he’s throwing my way is hotter than the lead from his cannon.4

With a sigh he stows the weapon and hurries to the window. I climb through to the landing, mindful of the glass falling from the shattered panel. I’d laugh to my dying breath if an opened artery was the way I went. Outside, the stench of rancid meat nearly gags me. Five stories up and the dead still stink. On the street below the wave of bodies crashes against the walls, flooding every opening. Hundreds of zombies. A tide a few handguns won’t stop.

“We gotta move.” I grab the soldier and shove him toward the ladder. He launches himself upward. I hurry after.

“What’s your name?” I ask.

“Kent.”

“Am I right in assuming this is your fuck-up, Kent?”

He disappears onto the roof. I’m up and over and he’s standing there with his pistol aimed at me. I’m sure he thinks the surprise on my face is for him. Asshole.

“Yeah,” he says. “This is an upris–

I pivot and push away. Shots ring out and Kent screams. I don’t look back, just run faster toward the edge and leap hard and far. Time slows as I move over the gap below me and away from the zombies behind me. In my mind I see the cause and effect. Kent approaches Casey, makes an offer, a threat. Buildings are lost. Citizens are scared. Kent talks them down. More buildings. Kent urges the people against Bossman. Damn, I almost feel bad about Casey. Almost.

With a painful thud, time catches up, throws me across the gravel-strewn surface of the neighboring building. Wincing, I sit up and look across the way. No survivors. Nothing but the mindless horde milling from edge to edge. Kent should’ve check his position before putting his back to the roof door. The building was already lost.

I also contributed words to two other stories. You can see how those concluded here and here.